1 July 2016

Meme: New to me authors, April to June 2016

It's easy to join this meme.

Just write a post about the best new-to-you crime fiction authors (or all) you've read in the period of April to June 2016, put a link to this meme in your post, and even use the logo if you like.
The books don't necessarily need to be newly published.

 After writing your post, then come back to this post and add your link to Mr Linky below. (if Mr Linky does not appear - leave your URL in a comment and I will add to Mr Linky when it comes back up, or I'll add the link to the post)
Visit the links posted by other participants in the meme to discover even more books to read.

This meme will run again at the end of September 2016
 


Crime Fiction Pick of the Month June 2016

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2016
Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for June 2016, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
e.g.
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.


26 June 2016

Review: DARK AS MY HEART, Antti Tuomainen

  • this edition published 2015 by Harvill Secker London
  • ISBN 978-1-846-55853-5
  • 308 pages
  • translated from Finnish into English by Lola Rogers
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

Aleksi Kivi lost his mother on a rainy October day in 1993. Twenty years later Aleksi, now 33, is certain that he knows who’s responsible for his mother’s disappearance. Everything points to millionaire Henrik Saarinen. The police doesn’t agree. Aleksi has only one option: to get close to Henrik Saarinen and find out the truth about his mother’s fate – on his own.

Dark As My Heart tells the story of a mother and son and the search for justice. It’s a story of a lifetime of loneliness, of promises made, the cost of obsessions, the price of vengeance and the power of love. Written in a beautiful and precise language with a touch of poetry, Dark As My Heart is crime novel, mystery tale and modern take on the Greek tragedy. Its heart beats fiercely and full of longing – for love, justice and redemption.

My Take

In some ways this plot reminded me of THE TRAP which I read recently, and also one of the themes of Pauline Rowson's Portsmouth series which also deals with a mother who disappears when her son is in his teens.

In the long run, I thought the author was struggling to bring the story of DARK AS MY HEART to a resolution. The central theme is the search for understanding what happened to Aleksi's mother twenty years earlier. Aleksi and the original police investigator are both convinced that the murderer struck again ten years later and so he will strike again on the 20th anniversary of his mother's disappearance.

Aleksi thinks he recognises the voice of millionaire Henrik Saarinen as that of a friend of his mother and becomes convinced that he is the murder. He takes a job as a caretaker on Saarinen's estate so he can keep a close eye on him.

The introduction of other characters: a daughter, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, as well as the detective now semi-retired and dying of cancer, pad the plot out, provide red herrings, and muddy the waters.

The setting has a definite Finnish flavour reinforced by use of a number of Finnish place names. The plot is very noir and for me there were one or two strands that really served no purpose.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Antti Tuomainen is the award-winning author of five novels: A Killer I Wish, My Brother’s Keeper, The Healer, Dark as My Heart, and his latest – The Mine. He has been called ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ by the Finnish press and his writing has garnered attention worldwide.
In 2011 his third novel The Healer was awarded the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel and has subsequently been published in 27 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Brazil, China, Iceland, Turkey and Greece, among others.
His fourth novel Dark as My Heart was optioned for feature film in 2013 and is in development at Making Movies Ltd., the production company behind the Finnish film sensation Black Ice. The novel has also been voted the best crime novel of the past decade by the readers of a Finnish crime fiction magazine.
His fifth novel The Mine was published in Finland in August 2015.

Review: THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG, Muriel Barbery - audio book

Synopsis  Audible.com

An enchanting New York Times and international best seller and award-winner about life, art, literature, philosophy, culture, class, privilege, and power, seen through the eyes of a 54-year-old French concierge and a precocious but troubled 12-year-old girl.

Renee Michel is the 54-year-old concierge of a luxury Paris apartment building. Her exterior (short, ugly,and plump) and demeanor (poor, discreet, and insignificant) belie her keen, questing mind and profound erudition. Paloma Josse is a 12-year-old genius who behaves as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter. She plans to kill herself on the 16th of June, her 13th birthday.

Both Renee and Paloma hide their true talents and finest qualities from the bourgeois families around them, until a wealthy Japanese gentleman named Ozu moves into building. Only he sees through them, perceiving the secret that haunts Renee, winning Paloma's trust, and helping the two discover their kindred souls. Moving, funny, tender, and triumphant, Barbery's novel exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

My Take

This novel is a departure into the world of non-crime fiction.
Perhaps listening to the audio version was probably not my best move because it tends to turn the  book into a series of short vignettes. Nevertheless I enjoyed the venture into philosophy in the form of the thoughts of both Renee the concierge and Paloma the teenage school girl.

The novel consists of items from Paloma's journal as she contemplates the meaning of life and Renee's narration about her life as the concierge of a large residential building. The two gradually interweave with each other and pictures are created of other residents in the building and there is a progression of events. In addition there is quite a bit of background about Renee's life over the years.

In the long run I enjoyed it more than I expected to, as I too thought about the philosophical issues they raised.

My rating: 4.2
  
Muriel Barbery (born 28 May 1969) is a French novelist and professor of philosophy.
Her novel L'Élégance du hérisson (translated into English by Alison Anderson as The Elegance of the Hedgehog) topped the French best-seller lists for 30 consecutive weeks and was reprinted 50 times. By May 2008 it had sold more than a million copies. It has been a bestseller in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, South Korea, and in many other countries. It concerns the inhabitants of a small upper-class Paris apartment block, notably its crypto-intellectual concierge, Renée. She and Paloma, the likewise intellectual (even radical) teenage daughter of a resident family, narrate the book in turn. Renée also features briefly in Barbery's first novel, Une Gourmandise, which appeared in Anderson's English translation as Gourmet Rhapsody in 2009. The Elegance of the Hedgehog was also turned into a film called Le Hérisson (in English The Hedgehog), directed by Mona Achache. It was released in 2009.

20 June 2016

Review: THE DRY, Jane Harper

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3534 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Australia (May 31, 2016)
  • Publication Date: May 31, 2016
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01B40JHRQ
Synopsis  (Amazon)

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well ...

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds are reopened. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret ... A secret Falk thought long-buried ... A secret which Luke's death starts to bring to the surface ...

Winner of the 2015 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript

My Take

Drought in Australia takes its toll in many ways and many believe that Luke Hadler has just snapped under the pressure. When Aaron Falk comes to the town for the funerals, he intends to get away as quickly as possible. But Luke's parents ask him to try to work out what triggered the murder/suicides, and then Falk meets a local policeman who is having a hard job accepting that Luke Hadler killed his family.

Aaron Falk and his father left the rural Victorian country town after the death of one of Aaron's friends. The final verdict was that Ellie had actually committed suicide, filling her shoes and pockets with stones, and drowning herself in a local swimming hole. Aaron and his father were questioned in connection with her death and then hounded out of town by Ellie's father. Now, twenty years on, the old rumours resurface and many townspeople treat Aaron with hostility and suspicion.

This is a really well constructed novel, with a number of credible red herrings, and then a final solution that really comes out of left field.

A good read.

My rating: 4.7

About the author:

Jane Harper has worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK. She lives in Melbourne and writes for the Herald Sun, among other publications. Winner of the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, The Dry is her first novel with rights sold to over twenty territories.

Review: FALLING IN LOVE, Donna Leon

  • source: my local library
  • published 2015
  • #24 in the Guido Brunetti series
  • ISBN 978-0-8021-2353-4
  • 264 pages
  • this edition published by Atlantic Monthly Press
Synopsis  (Fantastic Fiction)

In Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon's first novel in the Commissario Brunetti series, readers were introduced to the glamorous and cut-throat world of opera and to one of Italy's finest living sopranos, Flavia Petrelli - then a suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor.

Now, many years after Brunetti cleared her name, Flavia has returned to the illustrious La Fenice to sing the lead in Tosca. As an opera superstar, Flavia is well acquainted with attention from adoring fans and aspiring singers. But when one anonymous admirer inundates her with bouquets of yellow roses - on stage, in her dressing room and even inside her locked apartment - it becomes clear that this fan has become a potentially dangerous stalker. Distraught, Flavia turns to an old friend for help.

Familiar with Flavia's melodramatic temperament, Commissario Brunetti is at first unperturbed by her story, but when another young opera singer is attacked he begins to think Flavia's fears may be justified. In order to keep his friend out of danger, Brunetti must enter the psyche of an obsessive fan and find the culprit before anyone comes to harm.

My Take

Although he does use some police resources,  at first this is almost a private case for Brunetti. Not until a young singer whom Flavia Petrelli has praised is pushed down some steps does he really take it seriously. And then a mutual friend whose house Flavia is staying in is stabbed.

Once again the title is intriguing, almost misleading.

And then the reader might question the morality of the "justice" meted out in the end.

Signora Elettra goes on strike over what she sees as the unfair dismissal of one of her colleagues, and there is also some discussion of how Venice has changed particularly under the influence of tourism.

Another good read.

My Rating: 4.5

I've also read
ABOUT FACE
THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
4.4, A QUESTION OF BELIEF
4.5, BEASTLY THINGS
4.4, QUIETLY IN THEIR SLEEP
3.9, THE JEWELS OF PARADISE
4.8, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS
4.6, DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY
4.7, BY ITS COVER
4.5, THE GOLDEN GOOSE
4.8, THE WATERS OF ETERNAL YOUTH


13 June 2016

Review: TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX, Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • #1 in the Winemaker Detective series
  • File Size: 398 KB
  • Print Length: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Le French Book (August 6, 2012)
  • first published in French 2004
  • Publication Date: August 6, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008UEHFR4
  • translated from French by Anne Trager and published in English 2012
Synopsis (Amazon)

Treachery in Bordeaux is the first book in the beloved Winemaker Detective novels, the "addictive" French series featuring master winemaker Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile. When some barrels turn at the prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion wine estate, Cooker and Virgile start to investigate. Is it negligence or sabotage? They search the city and wine region for answers, welcoming readers into the underworld of a global luxury industry. Grab a glass of your favorite Bordeaux and delve into a world of money, deceit, inheritance, greed, and fine wine.

Brimming with description, intrigue, and compelling characters, Treachery in Bordeaux kicks off this unbeatable series, which was adapted to television in France.

My Take

My impression is that with this series, now 22 titles, the reader can take a virtual tour of French wine regions, learning about both wine and food, but indulging in cozy mysteries at the same time. Perhaps a good series to read in preparation for an upcoming trip to France?

This is the debut title, and begins with master winemaker Benjamin Cooker taking on a new assistant and then going to the assistance of a winemaker friend who has found that 6 barrels of his prestigious wine have become contaminated.  Benjamin and Virgile try to not only cleanse the wine of a yeast infection but also to identify the source of the infection.

The winery they are assisting is in an area where many great chateaux have disappeared, their vineyards and even the buildings themselves demolished to make way for intensive housing development. So there is a lot of historical detail, perhaps a little too much for my liking. There is also a lot of scientific detail about how the yeast infection is treated. Added in too are recipes and notes about the culinary delights of the Bordeaux area.

It is interesting to note that these books have become the basis of a popular French television series.

My Rating: 4.1

About the authors
Jean-Pierre Alaux is a magazine, radio and television journalist when he is not writing novels in southwestern France. He is a genuine wine and food lover and recently won the Antonin Carême prize for his cookbook La Truffe sur le Soufflé, which he wrote with the chef Alexis Pélissou. He is the grandson of a winemaker and exhibits a real passion for wine and winemaking. For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine. He gets a sparkle in his eye when he talks about the Winemaker Detective series, which he writes with Noël Balen. It is a 20-strong series that is a hit on French television and is now being translated into English by Le French Book. 

Noël Balen lives in Paris, where he shares his time between writing, making records, and lecturing on music. He plays bass, is a music critic and has authored a number of books about musicians in addition to his novel and short-story writing. He is a real Epicure and he shares his passion for fine wine in the Winemaker Detective series that he co-authors with Jean-Pierre Alaux. This 20-strong series is a hit on television in France, and is being translated into English by Le French Book

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